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Lady Gaga’s Subtle Protest

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Musician Lady Gaga performs onstage during the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl LI Halftime Show at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Another weekend, another 48 hours of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, another batch of high-profile celebrity protests that lit the internet’s underwear on fire. I’m talking about Saturday Night Live and the Super Bowl, where Kristen Stewart and Lady Gaga, as host and halftime entertainment respectively, took decidedly different approaches.

On Saturday, Stewart delivered a monologue in front of approximately 10.6 million SNL viewers. Grinning, she cut right to the chase:

“I’m a little nervous to be hosting because I know that the president’s probably watching, and I don’t think he likes me that much. Here’s how I know. Four years ago, I was dating this guy named Rob — Robert (Pattinson) — and we broke up and then we got back together and for some reason it made Donald Trump go insane. Here’s what he actually tweeted — and this is real:”

The President of the United States or the back pages of Us Weekly? You decide!

She went to say that not only did President Trump tweet about her relationship — he tweeted about it 11 times. (That’s 11 more than no times, FYI.) “The president is not a huge fan of me,” Stewart continued, “but that is so okay, and Donald, if you didn’t like me then, you’re really probably not going to like me now, ’cause I’m hosting SNL and I’m, like, so gay, dude.”

Right for the jugular. In less than four minutes, Stewart managed to skewer Trump for his juvenile Twitter persona and his lack of support for the LGBTQ community.

A day later, Lady Gaga kicked off her halftime show at the Super Bowl (viewership estimate: 116 million). At a press conference earlier in the week, Gaga answered questions about whether or not she would address the political climate:

“The only statements that I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I have been consistently making throughout my career,” Gaga said. “I believe in a passion for inclusion….Music is one of the most powerful things the world has to offer. No matter what race or religion or nationality or sexual orientation or gender that you are, it has the power to unite us.”

Cut to Sunday night. Dressed like a human disco ball with ~lite~ football padding, Gaga began her performance with a rendition of “God Bless America,” a song that happens to have been written by a Jewish Russian immigrant in 1918 — and boycotted by the Ku Klux Klan in 1940 for this very reason.

She followed with a snippet from “This Land is Your Land,” a song that originally included these lyrics:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said ‘Private Property.’
But on the backside, it didn’t say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

An immigrant…the Ku Klux Klan…a “big high wall”…any of this sounding familiar?

Gaga also sang a rousing rendition of “Born This Way.” The lyrics are radical compared to what we typically hear at the Super Bowl:

No matter gay, straight or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.

Given her pointed remarks about inclusivity before the show, it is unlikely that any part of this was accidental. Even singing the word “transgendered” into a microphone at the Super Bowl feels groundbreaking. But was it enough? Lady Gaga didn’t make an outright political statement — she didn’t even utter Trump’s name — but her art itself has always been in some way a protest.

Celebrities are practically implored to take a public stand these days in light of our current political climate. I wonder: Which is more compelling for you? Stewart’s blunt criticism and mockery or Gaga’s subtler protest-through-art route? Let’s chew on this breakfast burrito together. Meet me in the comments. I’ll bring the hot sauce.

Photo via Getty Images. 

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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